Biden and Trump to visit US-Mexico border on same day

<span>An aerial view of the area as migrants walking along razor wire after crossing the Rio Grande into the US on 28 January 2024 in Eagle Pass, Texas. </span><span>Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images</span>
An aerial view of the area as migrants walking along razor wire after crossing the Rio Grande into the US on 28 January 2024 in Eagle Pass, Texas. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

Joe Biden and Donald Trump will both travel to the US border with Mexico on Thursday, dueling visits by the president and his probable opponent for re-election underlining the importance of immigration as an issue in the coming campaign.

Biden will visit Brownsville, Texas, in the Rio Grande valley, while his presidential predecessor will head for Eagle Pass, about 325 miles distant.

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In New York on Monday, Biden told reporters: “I planned it for Thursday. What I didn’t know was that my good friend, apparently, is going.”

Asked if he would meet migrants in Brownsville, the president said: “I’m not going to announce ahead of time.”

The White House said Biden would “meet with US Border Patrol agents, law enforcement, and local leaders”.

It also said Biden would “discuss the urgent need to pass the Senate bipartisan border security agreement, the toughest and fairest set of reforms to secure the border in decades. He will reiterate his calls for congressional Republicans to stop playing politics and to provide the funding needed for additional US Border Patrol agents, more asylum officers, fentanyl detection technology and more.”

Conditions at the southern border represent a growing problem for the White House, both practically in terms of coping with record numbers of undocumented migrants arriving via Central America and politically in terms of defending against Republican attacks.

Earlier this month, Trump directed Republicans to sink a bipartisan border and immigration deal in the Senate. Alarming progressives, Biden has since been reported to be weighing using executive orders to impose policy changes including restricting access to the US for migrants claiming asylum.

Demanding a border bill regardless of such machinations by their party, House Republicans also managed, at the second attempt, to impeach Biden’s secretary of homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas.

Despite the widely held view that the articles of impeachment against Mayorkas do not come close to meeting the standard for conviction and removal from office, the process now moves to the Senate.

On the campaign trail, Trump has upped his far-right, anti-migrant rhetoric, regularly claiming migrants are “poisoning the blood” of the country.

On Monday, Trump – who is reportedly set to speak in Eagle Pass – used his Truth Social platform to say: “When I am your president, we will immediately seal the border, stop the invasion, and on day one, we will begin the largest deportation operation of illegal criminals in American history!”

A Trump spokesperson, Karoline Leavitt, accused Biden of making “a last-minute, insincere attempt to chase President Trump to the border”, which she said would not “cut it” with voters.

On Monday, a new poll from Monmouth University considered indicated voters’ feelings on immigration.

According to the poll, more than 80% of voters now see undocumented migration as either a very serious problem (61%) or a somewhat serious problem (23%).

A majority, 53%, said they supported building a wall on the border with Mexico. A promise to do so – and to have Mexico pay for it – was a main plank of Trump’s shock victory in the 2016 election. Failure to do so, and debate over the effectiveness and environmental impact of such barriers as were built or maintained, was a constant theme of his presidency.

More than 60% of respondents to the Monmouth poll said they supported applicants for asylum having to remain in Mexico while their claims are processed.

On another central Trump campaign issue, crime, the pollsters said “about one in three (32%) think that illegal immigrants are more likely than other Americans to commit violent crimes like rape or murder”.

The poll noted that 65% of Republicans – but only 12% of Democrats – held that belief.

“Illegal immigration has taken center stage as a defining issue this presidential election year,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “Other Monmouth polling found this to be Biden’s weakest policy area, including among his fellow Democrats.”

Nonetheless, the White House and the Biden campaign are eager to turn the tables on Trump and Republicans over immigration.

In a campaign video released on Sunday, Biden was seen watching footage of Trump discussing why he leant on Senate Republicans to sink their own border deal.

“It made it much better for the opposing side,” Trump told Fox News.

“He just admitted it,” Biden said. “He sabotaged our bipartisan deal to secure the border … you know who the opposing side is? In this case, it’s America. Donald Trump roots against America every chance he gets.”